Sunday, 12 August 2012

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin & Glorious Revolution


St Patrick's Cathedral during the 1680s makes for an interesting study, specially for those of us whom are interested in the whole period of the Glorious Revolution. At a time when liberty of conscience, and the independence of the cathedral was under attack from King James's regime and the Roman Catholic church.



The death of Charles II in 1665 brought his Catholic brother, James II, to the throne. At first the signs of change were muted. The protestant lord lieutenant, Lord Clarendon, attempted to soothe fears and after the initial concerns at the accession of a Catholic many behaved as though no significance had occurred. However, in January 1687 during the dean's visitation, Batholomew Isaac, one of the vicars choral who had been appointed in 1685, was found to be negligent in his duties and was dismissed, to which he responded that he had "embraced the Catholic religion being that of his sovereign, which forbade him to pray or to officiate with the chapter at divine service." Isaac appealed the decision to the King and received a letter for his reinstatement with a dispensation from serving in the choir. The dean and chapter refused to reinstate him.

The death of Dean Worth in April 1688 was potentially disastrous for St Patrick's cathedral since, given the asertion of the right of appointment by the crown under James II. It seemed that St Patrick's would fall under Roman Catholic control in the way that Christ Church Cathedral had done earlier in the same year. However, King James delayed in appointing a dean, apparently wishing to keep the deanery vacant so that he could use the income for his own ends. Funding his standing army being one reson. The chapter moved independently by electing William King , then chancellor of the cathedral, as president. In effect King was acting Dean. The chapter then petitioned the lord deputy, Richard Talbot, earl of Tyrconnell, for an election but this was refused citing the crown's claim to the right of presentation. It seems that the lord deputy intended to keep the deanery vacant, thus depleting the number of Church of Ireland clergy and securing income for the crown.

In a bold move in January 1689 the chapter acted again in defense of the reformed faith and independence of the cathedral, by asking the archbishop for permission to hold an election, based on the chapter's right to be able to elect the dean, and William King was duly appointed dean and installed in February 1689. The Church of Ireland A History of the Church of Ireland 1691-2001 responded promptly to fill the resulting vacancy in the chancellorship by appointing Samuel Foley. Not only was the Williamite war at its height in Ireland; with the siage of Londonderry, but there was real resistance to the rule of King James in Dublin specially within the chapter of St Patrick's cathedral.

Whatever limited victory had been achieved by the chapter of the cathedral this was negated by Dean Kings arrest and imprisonment in the tower of Dublin Castle in July 1689 by King James Jacobite forces then in Dublin. King moved quickly in appointing Henry Price as his sub-dean. This was clearly a dangerous situation not only for the dean but for the whole chapter and the reformed faith. On 22 Oct 1689 only three members of the chapter appeared for a meeting to deal with matters relating to the diocese of which it was custodian. Two days later only four were present at the adjourned meeting and three had sent proxies. The situation was all the more dangerous since Catholic clergy were collecting 'tithes' from protestants at St Patrick's. Fear of arrest ran through every protestant house hold of Dublin.


The Light of Liberty Shines: The battle of the Boyne 1st July 1690 opened Dublin up to the Williamite Army. On 5th July King William III entered the city and rode "in great splendor" to St Patrick's where a Te deume was sung and Dean William King preached before the King. Why St Patrick's cathedral should have been chosen for this honor over the diocesan cathedral of Christ Church is not clear. It may well be that the position of Christ Church was felt to be compromised since it had been seized by the Catholics and used for Mass while St Patrick's resisted and held out against the Jacobite regime. In the months after the battle of the Boyne was marked by a series of sermons at St Patrick's that had the distinction of being printed. Both the 23 Oct and 5 Nov sermons preached there were printed and on the 16 Nov another thanksgiving service for the preservation of William III was also preached there it to was printed. Many of the French Hugonotes whom fled the city to take up arms with William of Orange came back to their homes in the "Tenters" area of the city. One of the first Williamite societies was established in this old French area of Dublin "the aldermen of Skinner Ally". The economic life of the cathedral and the city blossomed in the 18th century. Within seventy years after Williams victory, Dublin went from being a minor trading city in the British Isles to being the second city of the British Empire.

On visiting St Patrick's you are not only visiting a cathedral but a whole community. As the life of the cathedral is firmly set within the Church of Ireland community. There's many interesting items to be viewed covering 800 years of the cathedral's history. However due to the nature of this article " The Glorious Revolution" I'll bring your attention only to two items. The chair upon which King William III sat during service, and the tomb of General Schomberg, which is situated in Lady's Chapel; who's epitaph was crafted by one of the most famous deans of the Cathedral, Johnathan Swift. The area around the cathedral makes for interesting history which I will cover in future articles i.e Dublin Conservative Club, protestant Hugonotes of the Tenters. You will note that I place many links into my articles so please explore and enjoy Dublin's unique history.

Chris Thackaberry historian Failte Ireland & Dublin Tourism approved Tour Guide. Historical Walking Tours of Dublin including St Patrick's Cathedral and Dublin's Williamite Trail. book through www.dublinloyaltours.ie Recommended reading on the history of St Patrick's The Monuments in St Patricks Cathedral Dublin